Alnwick overcome opposition and weather for welcome win

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For visiting teams to come away from Driffield with any points at all is something of a triumph.

This Alnwick team should be well satisfied with their performance in this match marking the half-way point of the league season, not just because they won but rather because of the way they won it.

Having failed to adapt to the windy conditions against Northern, Alnwick got their mind-set right in the Driffield mud and efficiently deployed sensible tactics so that they dominated possession and territory for most of the game.

In such wet and muddy conditions, this match was never going to be a pretty spectacle.

Although all Alnwick’s points came courtesy of the backs, this was a day for the forwards and it was the heroic efforts of the Alnwick pack with the engine room pairing of Sutheran and Burgess at its heart that laid the foundation for victory.

There was barely any wind as Alnwick kicked off and the risks of handling a slippery ball became apparent within minutes as a fumble at an Alnwick scrum in Driffield’s 22 was hacked 50 metres upfield. Calum Burn was quickly back to cover and counter to half-way where Alnwick gained a scrum followed by a penalty. From the line-out on Driffield’s 22, Driffield were penalised for offside in mid-field as Hutchinson gained no advantage from Alnwick’s catch-and-drive, and Bird had no difficulty slotting the kick for 0 – 3 after eight minutes.

For the rest of the half Driffield were under almost constant pressure. Apart from the odd glitch, the Alnwick forwards were comfortably holding their own in the set pieces and were sharper at the breakdown. Driffield kept up a determined defence but when the ball came back from any halt in Alnwick’s forwards’ progress, pressure was maintained either through the backs making ground or the half-backs putting in well placed kicks for the wingers to chase.

Apart from penalties and scrums from the inevitable handling errors by both sides, the best relief Driffield could achieve in the face of these tactics was to kick for touch, which merely provided a platform for Alnwick to repeat the process.

It was therefore surprising but also a credit to Driffield’s defence that there was no further score before the interval.

At the start of the second half Driffield put a threatening cross-kick deep in to Alnwick’s 22 where it was fielded by full-back Bird who burst powerfully out of the 22, taking play beyond half-way with a grubber kick. Although Driffield’s cover was sprinting back , winger Moralee got his foot to the ball first and comfortably won the footrace to shepherd the ball over the line and touch down near the posts, giving Bird a straightforward conversion for 0 – 10.

Alnwick soon went further ahead as Driffield were penalised for obstruction near their own 22, Bird again kicking the goal for 0 – 13.

Driffield began to come back into the game more, with their backs holding their passes and gaining territory but without really threatening Alnwick much beyond half-way. However, Alnwick’s forwards still had the upper hand giving Burn plenty of ball to keep Driffield pegged back with some well executed tactical kicks.

Todd nearly broke through with a tricky run and an impressive driving maul by the Alnwick pack took play fully thirty metres from half-way and was only stopped by being deliberately collapsed, the Driffield offender getting a yellow card.

Alnwick didn’t profit immediately but shortly after, Todd got his reward for his afternoon’s efforts by squeezing round the fringes of the loose to cross in the corner for 0 – 18 with the conversion missed.

Spectating became largely a matter of guesswork as the rain increased and conditions deteriorated in the gathering gloom, but Alnwick remained in control and safely dealt with Driffield’s death throes in the fifteen minutes before the final whistle.